Monday, August 31, 2015

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI 'S WRITING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE, travel journals that read like a surreal novel

WRITING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE travel journals 1960-2010 by LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson, is published by Liveright Publishing as a Memoir (September).

Ferlinghetti is a Beat icon, poet and author of the legendary Coney Island of the Mind and a founder of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers in San Francisco. In these journals through the decades, places (Latin America, Seattle, Tijuana, Cuba, Paris, Rome, Greece, Berlin, Belize, Russia, Australia) and people (Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Pablo Neruda), he captures the truth of a moment, how it feels and what it says politically about a society--often within a Zen context of eternity. There are also drawings, such as "her tragic side" 8/01, that are revelations.

In addition, this book provides entertaining literary experience. Who but Ferlinghetti would consider reversing Conrad's Heart of Darkness to begin in New York City (as the heart of the beast) and discover the great Light, The Heart of Lightness?  I found this book so rich, so well edited, you could flip through it and find meaningful paragraphs on any page.  Here are a few chance selections..

The Sixties--Salton Sea
"When Do the Gas Stations Open Up Around Here?" I hear the cowboy shouting....That's life in the American West, 1961. Let me out, I'm way down here at the bottom of the well, below the Sea...I'm the cowboy and I paid eight dollars for this fancy resort beach house and I want some action along with it, even some Beauty, I want my money's worth, I'll take a lot of showers, use up all the soap and towels, drink out of both sterilized water glasses, turn on the air-conditioning, the refrigerator, the heater, flush the toilet a lot. I'll go swimming in the Pool even if I freeze to death doing it..."

Santa Rita Journal--1968
Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center. What are we doing here in this dank tank? Probing the limits of political dissent in this unenlightened country?  Nonviolent gesture of blocking the entrance to war at Oakland Army Induction Center hereby judged beyond that limit. Rehabilitate us, please...First rough impressions of anybody's first time in jail, suddenly realizing what "incarcerated" really means. Paranoid fear of the unknown, fear of not knowing what's going to happen to your body, fear of getting thrown in the Hole...Routine of being booked, fingerprinted, mugged, shunted from bullpen to bullpen itself a shock for any "first offender"...Naive vestigal illusions about the inherent goodness of man fly out the barred windows...

Pompei's supreme hallucination as in one of those films where the hero is walking into the sun and the heat is rising and his eyes take on a glazed look and the sky and the whole landscape start to whirl around him as in a kaleidoscope, perhaps the way it was before Vesuvius erupted. In Berlin they are running a marathon around the thirty miles of the ruined Wall. The morning newspaper in Napoli shows the huge crowd, thousands of runners passing through the Brandenburg Gate. Some have their arms outstretched, presumably in joy, or as if they were about to fly like Icarus straight into the sun. Turn the photo sideways and they look like the stone figures still gesturing in the rootless ruins of Pompei, the arms outstretched against the rain of lava. They have a comic aspect, un aspetto comico.

Journals are often interior confessionals and travel books are exterior observations. WRITING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE is a poet's hybrid, confessions that offer glimpses of the world, ourselves and the future.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, novel based on the true story of a female deputy sheriff in 1914

                   " I got a revolver to protect us," said Miss Constance, "and I soon had use for it."
                                                                                                 --New York Times, June 3, 1915

Amy Stewart's novel, GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, rings true. She includes real newspaper articles that give the Kopp sisters' story the authenticity of an era fairly forgotten in 2015. In 1914  Constance Kopp turned thirty-five on an isolated farm with her sister Norma, also a spinster, and 16-year old Fleurette.  It was eccentric that the three sisters and their mother chose to live on this farm, rather than town, where a school and other cultural advantages existed. It was unheard of, when their mother died, that the sisters decided to stay.  Despite the lack of conveniences, Fleurette's education at home and borderline poverty, they resisted the offers of their married brother to live with his family.

Typically, women without husbands for protection and no visible means of support were expected to move in with male relatives and be useful to their household.  The reasons the Kopp sisters resisted were rooted in both the secrets of their family and the narrow social conventions governing women's lives at that time.  With employment opportunities greatly limited, marriage was the most acceptable career. GIRL WAITS WITH GUN shows the rare independence of the Kopp sisters.

Constance, the oldest, was tall and broad-shouldered, smart and uncompromising. Though completely uninterested in farm life, she believed it was their best option. Her sense of responsibility was huge, as was her concern for Norma and, especially, Fleurette. Constance managed equipment, animals and finances, while working with Norma on the day to day running of the farm and Fleurette's lessons. She was also sick of the endless rounds of chores. The retiring life, the best for Fleurette, was occasionally too much even for them.

So, in the summer of 1914, they drove their buggy to Patterson, N.J. When a motor car plowed into them, the buggy overturned, pinning Fleurette, but the sisters were not seriously injured. Though badly shattered, the buggy was not beyond repair. Yet this accident would change the lives of all involved because Constance sought simple justice--payment for repairs from the driver, Henry Kauffman, a well-to-do silk manufacturer. Little did she know their seclusion was at an end.

Constance got Kauffman's contact information at the scene of the accident but, when her queries went unanswered, she had to track him down at his factory with her invoice. Non payment led to her meeting with the intrepid Sheriff Heath. Then, after payment, the Kopp sisters faced escalating harassment. Constance joined forces with the Sheriff to combat the powerful manufacturer and his "Black-hand" gang. The farm had become the site for a reign of terror that included threatening notes by "brick delivery." Then Fleurette was targeted to be kidnapped and sold into "white slavery."

Sheriff Heath first taught Constance, then the others, to shoot and gave out guns. During their long vigils with Heath's deputies, they would have to use them. But successfully defending themselves was one thing, bringing Kauffman to trial was another. Constance had to discover and assemble proof that would stick. Ignoring sex and class, she went on the offensive, risking her life for her sisters' safety. Ice storms, violence, notoriety in the papers; nothing deterred Constance from her course. At the end, justice was served and she had earned a real job, as one of the first female Sheriffs in the nation.

Read this very moving, even funny, action-packed novel.  What made it for me, besides the time-travel, was the portraits of the sisters. It may be invention but I found Constance's pragmatic yet inspired mental process, Norma's carrier pigeons and Fleurette's imaginative gift with a sewing machine endearing. These ladies were both modern, of their times, and somehow familiar. My grandmother made lentil soup for her family, before joining the march from Philadelphia to Washington for the women's right to vote--didn't happen until 1920.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What is the difference between memoir & autobiography? Take a look at Privilege and Prejudice, NEW World view podcast

An autobiography is different from a memoir, though the forms seem to have merged lately.  I think of a memoir as a public diary edited yet intimate. The thoughts of the writer about their experience are primary, while an autobiography seeks to know the person through their deeds. Reading about them, you learn how a life was lived, consciously and unconsciously. You gain insight into the roles of background and opportunity in shaping character and destiny.   

There are not many large full autobiographies and this one supplies the pleasure of the unexpected. It breaks the stereotypes about Black potential and advancement.  Privilege and Prejudice: The Life of a Black Pionee, the autobiography of Clifton R. Wharton Jr.,is about a Black man whose good fortune helped him to forge breakthroughs in four separate careers. It's an exceptional story, the release below explains more.

Media interviews with Dr. Wharton:

Some new ones. Here's SUNY's Rockefeller Institute.

A Book Talk with Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. - YouTube
Video for clifton r wharton jr? 1:21:54
Oct 13, 2015 -

MSU » Clifton R. Wharton
Oct 22, 2015 - MSU Presidents Simon and Wharton reflect on Wharton's memoir ... former Michigan State University president Dr. Clifton RWharton Jr. talks 

World View podcast from MSU.
MSU link:
 WAMC's Alan Chartock In Conversation with Dr. Clifton Wharton, Jr. about his new autobiography Privilege and Prejudice:The Life of a ...

WMHT’s New York Now, YNNs Capital Tonight, the Times Union, and WCNY’s syndicated Capital Pressroom-October7-10, 2015.
Former SUNY Chancellor Clifton Wharton is profiled for the writing of his new book

Inside Higher Education' Q&;A with Dr. Wharton

Diverse Magazine writes about Bill Moyers' interview of Dr. Wharton

Dr. Wharton's recent interview on PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff.

“While I did not select the career goal of being a black “pioneer” or integrating the American dream, it was not long before I found myself treading where few, if any, Blacks had stepped before.”
                                                            --Clifton R. Wharton Jr.

The Life of a Black Pioneer

by Clifton R. Wharton Jr.

In this extraordinary new book you will step into the shoes of Dr. Clifton Wharton Jr. and experience the life of a trailblazing Black man who shattered many glass ceilings in a journey through the worlds of higher education, business, government, and the nonprofit sector. PRIVILEGE AND PREJUDICE: The Life of a Black Pioneer (Michigan State University Press; Publication date: October 1, 2015; 614 pages, $34.95 hardcover; ISBN: 978-1-61186-171-6) is a stereotype-defying autobiography. It reveals a Black man whose good fortune in birth and heritage and opportunity of time and place helped him to forge breakthroughs in four separate careers.

Clifton R. Wharton Jr. entered Harvard at age sixteen. He was the first Black student accepted to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, and went on to receive a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago—another first. For twenty-two years he promoted agricultural development in Latin America and Southeast Asia, earning a post as chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. He again pioneered higher education firsts as president of Michigan State University and chancellor of the sixty-four-campus State University of New York system. As chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, he was the first Black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His commitment to excellence culminated in his appointment as deputy secretary of state during the Clinton administration.

In addition to learning Dr. Wharton’s fascinating life story, you will also meet, as Dr. Wharton met, national leaders in business, philanthropy, higher education, and government -- names like Nelson and John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Theodore Hesburgh, Paul Volcker, Bill and Judith Moyers, Henry Ford II, Cy Vance, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, Hubert Humphrey, Theodore Schultz, Vernon Jordan, William Friday, Milton Friedman, Kenneth Clark, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Andrew Brimmer, John Whitehead, Sol Linowitz, and Presidents Carter, Ford, and Clinton.

A remarkable story of persistence and courage, PRIVILEGE AND PREJUDICE also documents the challenges of competing in a society where obstacles, negative expectations, and stereotypes remained stubbornly in place. An absorbing and candid narrative, it describes a most unusual childhood, a remarkable family, and a historic career.


Clifton R. Wharton Jr. has been a Black pioneer in numerous fields, serving as president of Michigan State University, chancellor of the State University of New York system, chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, and ultimately as deputy secretary of state.